Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

I Can’t Stop Worrying; I Don’t Have That Much Faith

August 24, 2017

You are right, in our human strength we don’t have much faith. But Jesus said if we had as much faith as a mustard seed (have you ever seen one? They are tiny!) you could move mountains with it. You see, you don’t have faith in your faith. You have faith in Jesus, and He is the most powerful person on Earth. He said “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18) He can do everything. He is God, after all. And over and over in the bible it says “Nothing is too hard for God.”

So give the worries to Jesus and let him handle them. You can pray and ask Jesus whether there is anything He wants you to do or change. But other than that, let Him do the worrying for you. There is nothing to be gained by your worry. Jesus said “Who by your worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25) Worry is checking up on Jesus to see if He is working on your problem, and He doesn’t like it when we do that. It shows we don’t trust him. So when we are tempted to worry, we can just say “Thank you Jesus for taking care of my problems, is there anything you are telling me to do that I’m not hearing. If not, then I trust you.”

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Being Honest with God

January 24, 2016

“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?  Psalm 13:1,2

David was expressing something like exasperation to God, and it was almost exasperation with God.  He had been suffering, being cornered by enemies who sought to destroy him, and he was not seeing any action on God’s part.  He had a certain daring.  He dared complain to God, and yet he felt safe enough to do so.  God could have destroyed him.  God had punished the complainers among his people in the past.  But God didn’t punish David.  God actually called David “a man after my own heart.”  What was the difference?

David wasn’t taking God for granted.  He didn’t lack faith in God.  In this same psalm David said “But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” (Verse 5)  David was just tired, heartbroken, and longing for some reassurance from the Lord, some movement on his behalf that would give him some hope.  He wasn’t distrusting God, but just being honest with God.

Sometimes it feels wonderful to just unburden ourselves, talking about our problems with someone who will listen without condemnation.  God knows how we are made, and He doesn’t mind at all that we ventilate our emotions before Him.   He is pleased that we trust Him like that.  It is good for us to be honest about our feelings, not acting as though we have to play some holy pretend game before God.  It is good for us to unburden ourselves to the only one who can do anything to help us.  And it is good when we then tell God we are willing to do what He wants.  It is good when we tell Him we trust Him to work out our problems for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)

Asking

January 20, 2016

“Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Anyone who seeks, finds.  If only you will knock, the door will open.  If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread will he be given a stone instead?  If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonour snake?  Of course not!  And if you hardhearted sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t  your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?”  Matthew 7:7-11

In this episode, Jesus taught that our Heavenly Father is like a very loving earthly parent, but even better.  First of all, He likes to be asked for what we need.  Unlike earthly parents, God already knows what we need.  What then would be the purpose of asking?  Asking indicates trust on our part–trust that we have been heard, and trust that we will be given a loving answer to our requests.  That trust is a type of praise that brings God glory (it reflects all His goodness, love and beauty).  Jesus taught that everyone who asks will receive an answer, and everyone who seeks answers will be given something.  Jesus said that if we knocked we would be answered.  God never has a busy signal.  We never get the runaround.  We never will find God absent when we knock.  We will get an answer.   The answer might not always be exactly what we asked.  Think about parents.  They don’t always give their child what it asks for, because many of a child’s choices are foolish.  But as parents, even less than perfect parents do acknowledge the child’s request and give something good.  If a baby asks for something it can choke on, the parent distracts it with something else they know it likes.  If a child asks for something foolish or dangerous, the parent gives something better.  Sometimes it is necessary to wait for an answer, because someone or something  isn’t ready for the answer yet.  God will never give anything that would hurt us no matter how much we think we want it.  There was a song once about thanking God for unanswered prayer.  According to the lyrics, the young man had prayed for a certain girl to become his wife, but years later upon seeing her again, and then looking at the wife he had, he was glad God hadn’t answered the original prayer.  His actual wife was a much better match for him for a lifetime.

What God Needs

November 8, 2015

“the Lord does not depend on weapons to fulfill His plans–He works without regard to human means!”  I Samuel 17:47

We all limit God.  We think certain conditions have to be there for God to answer a prayer.  We think we must have certain gifts before God can use us.  We think there has to be a certain amount of money for things to happen and we pray for the money.  We think we need the government for us to feel secure.  We think a lot of things have to be in place for God to make something happen.  But God needs—NOTHING!   God spoke and the universe was created out of—nothing!   God came as a man, Jesus, with a human body–and born of a virgin. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead with–nothing.  Jesus fed 5000 people with a few bread rolls and a couple fish.  He fed 7000 later with the same kind of meager scraps.  And Jesus has always used the nobodys of this world to accomplish great things for Him.  In fact, He prefers it that way.  Proud people tend to get in the way.  The kings of the world are used–yes USED–without their knowledge, to accomplish God’s purposes.  God raises and fells rulers, nations and cultures.  God births and destroys as He sees fit–everything from stars to demonic spirits.  God needs no conditions, no set of circumstances, no materials, nothing.  Yet, He loves human beings.  He does not need us, but He wants us.  Humbling.  Amazing.  Tremendous, wonderful Love.

Reasons to Believe Jesus

October 23, 2015

There are at least 5 reasons to believe Jesus.  Here they are–in no particular order.

  1.  Scientifically.  Jesus talked about the Creation many times.  There is a creator.  If you have intricate design and purpose, you have a designer and a creator.  It is just not possible to get from amino acids to even the simplest cell.  To get to the simplest protein we know of, you have to have the right DNA combination.  The chances of getting that are 10×10 to the 77th power.  All the rest of the combinations won’t work.  That makes chance mutation, over and over, mathematically impossible, and this chance mutation is the basis for evolution.
  2. Historically.  The resurrection is one of the best testified events in history.  All history is based on the testimony of reliable witnesses.  The witnesses to the resurrection wouldn’t recant their testimony even under pain of death.  All but one of the apostles died for their witness.  Only John did not, and he was persecuted, imprisoned and exiled.  People will die for what they believe is the truth, they will not die for what they know is a lie. And the tomb was empty.  If there had been a body, somebody would have produced it.  As for the theory he really didn’t die–no one survived a Roman crucifixion.  Their job was to see their convicts died.
  3. Change in the apostles.  The changed lives of the apostles are a testimony that something happened.  They never portrayed themselves as heroes.  They all abandoned Jesus at his arrest.  Yet, after seeing the risen Jesus and receiving the Spirit, they became bold witnesses who traveled all over spreading the news of Jesus resurrection and his teaching.
  4. Prophetically.  Jesus fulfilled 317 prophecies about himself that were written in the old testament more than 400 years before his birth.  No one could do that on their own.  You can’t control how you will be born or die.
  5. Practically.  Look at the changed lives of people today, whose path has been turned around completely when they asked Jesus to come into their lives.  So many of them have experienced things they can’t explain and they will tell you they didn’t make it on their own.

This may not be enough reasons for everyone.  Nothing can be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Thats why in a court of law, proof must be based on  the “beyond a reasonable doubt” premise or the “preponderance of the evidence” method, depending on how the applicable law is written.

“”God always gives enough light for those who believe and enough shadows for those who doubt.”  Pascal

God fights for Us

October 21, 2015

“The Lord says, ‘Don’t be afraid!  Don’t be paralyzed by this mighty army!  For the battle is not yours, but God’s!”

This was about the Jewish people, one of the times they were being attacked.  But promises such as these pertain to all God’s people, for God never changes and His Love toward all His people is eternal.  So for us the message is:  When you see great enemies, powerful foes, things too big and fearsome for you to fight on your own, the battle is the Lord’s.  Whenever God’s people are obeying Him and trying to do good, there will always be opposition.  Our enemy the devil is very real and very powerful, although at this time God has him on a short leash.  When we are frightened by the greatness and terribleness of the opposition, we need to remember, God is in control, and He will fight the battle for us.  We are to keep our eyes on Him, keep our faith and keep our courage.  God is the ultimate power, and there is no being in the universe that can prevail over Him.  As Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.”  He’s got us covered.

In the Beginning

August 9, 2015

“In the beginning, God…” The bible opens with these four words, and they are infinitely appropriate. They separate the bible account from other beliefs or philosophies humans have followed. “In the beginning” assumes there was a beginning. Evolution doesn’t assume that. It assumes atoms were on earth, but it never explains where they came from. It assumes laws of chemistry, but can’t explain where they came from either. There is no beginning, but some things simply exist–i.e., atoms, molecules, laws of chemistry, energy etc. The word “God” assumes God existed at the beginning. Not all belief systems assume that, either. Some assume many gods, spirits, aliens, or simply nothing. These four simple words set up the framework for all that will follow.

“…God created…” This sets God as the creator of everything, from light, earth, heaven, Sun, moon and stars, earth and water, and all that is present on the earth, including all living things. Nothing happened by chance, nor did anything evolve. For those who feel they must try to work evolution into this, I would ask “why?” As a professor once said to me “Evolution doesn’t answer everything, but it is simply the best explanation we have if we can’t accept a creator. And Science can’t accept a creator because it is outside the realm of science, which must be able to see and measure what it studies.” Well, ok, but evolution can’t be seen, measured or replicated either. We can only conjecture what happened, and a lot remains to be answered there as well. It is a faith-based philosophy when it can’t answer the questions either of its own statistical impossibility or the problem of irreducibility. I heard another professor say “We believe all the questions about how evolution is possible will someday be answered when we have discovered more.” Thats faith.

There is a God

March 6, 2014

I have heard probably 90% of the philosophical arguments for and against the idea of God.  I believe God, but not because of any philosophical arguments.  I have thoroughly studied the accounts of Jesus and His followers.  I have studied these accounts for their historical accuracy and find they are equal to or more reliable that any other history from that era, or even more recent eras.  The accounts of Jesus life and that of His followers contain so many miraculous events that nothing can explain them except God was in these things.  I also look at some particularly majestic or beautiful place in nature, and I just know God made that.  Evolution just can’t explain the culmination of all the things that had to happen together.  It takes more blind faith to believe it all happened by chance than to accept that God made it.  Then there is answered prayer.  When I have called out to God, He has answered me.  The ways are unique and personal.  Things happen that cannot be explained.  Coincidences that have a personal mark, meaningful to me, just happen when I pray.  

I personally think that disbelief in God comes from wanting autonomy.  Unbelievers don’t want to admit they do not wish to be subject to anyone, not even God.  They want to be free to set their own standards of right and wrong based upon their own personal value system.  Of course, if one believes they are in charge of their lives, they have no hope of help or of life beyond this realm.  It is truly a high cost for autonomy.  

Christian Psychology

January 7, 2012

Many years ago I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and recently at quite an advanced age, I earned a master’s degree in Christian psychology.  A number of people have asked me what is the difference, and that has provoked a lot of thought on my part.

When I was in my twenties and working on my bachelor’s degree, psychology was a way of seeking truth.  It was, in a sense, my religion.  I wasn’t a Christian myself, although I liked Jesus.  I was almost completely ignorant of the bible, and I had certainly made no commitment to Jesus, or any religion.  I thought, in studying psychology, I could learn what brings people happiness and fulfillment.  I thought psychology would give me answers to problems in my own life, such as anxiety, loneliness and relationships that weren’t working very well.  Psychology, I learned, was the science of human behavior.  In the first year, I learned that if something couldn’t be researched, it wasn’t psychology, but belonged in the realm of philosophy or religion.  By the final year, I was learning dozens of theories of psychotherapy.  These theories could be researched as to whether clients felt themselves to have been helped, but it was all very nebulous as to how the theory helped.  I became very Rogerian.  I felt people just needed love and understanding, and they could go a long way toward solving their own problems.

After college, I began to work in the mental health field.  I very quickly learned some conditions were improved with medication, such as certain types of psychosis.  I also learned that psychotherapy of almost any stripe seemed to help very little.  We did it all.  We had a “therapeutic community”, had group therapy twice a day, psychodrama, occupational therapy, individual counseling, and so forth.  We had the same patients coming back and back.  After three years I was pretty doubtful that we were doing much good other than giving patients and their families a break during hospitalization.  I got into a related career field, doing health education.  I felt I could contribute more to people’s mental health by helping them to live healthier lives in general.

About that same time, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I had begun to read the bible, and became convinced the accounts of Jesus were true.  What is more, there were answers in His teachings to the questions I had asked since college.  Jesus had answers I had never heard while learning psychology.

All human beings have questions, and the answers they come up with determine how healthy and happy their life turns out.  Universal questions include:  Who am I?  What am I doing here?  Do I have significance?  Why do I feel so lonely inside?  Why do I feel so guilty sometimes?  Why can’t I get along with …?  How can I feel satisfied with my work?  Is this all there is?  Why am I not happier?  Why is life so unfair?  What happens when I die?

Psychology, as far as I ever learned, just doesn’t answer these questions.  It essentially says its up to each individual to find their own answers.  Well, answers that are invented just can’t satisfy.  People know they are engaging in wishful thinking.  They want to know there is truth, and they want to know what it is.  The other thing psychology doesn’t address is our limitations.  Limits are what cause mid-life crises.  The young think the whole world is out there for them to examine and enjoy, but by middle age one realizes there are limits and one won’t ever do all one has wished to do.  How can we live with our limits?

Christian psychology helps people to seek truth where it may be found: in the teachings of Jesus, and the older book Jesus so often quoted, called the Old Testament by Christians.  Jesus addressed all the issues that go beyond psychology to our deepest self, beyond this life, beyond this world, to God Himself.  In addition, He offers a relationship, whereby He helps us with our limitations, satisfies our loneliness, deals with our guilt, gives us meaning and purpose, and settles once and for all our value, based on God’s love for us. 

The bible has something to say about every issue people face, and deals with these issues on a deep level beyond the surface behavior and emotions.  Christian psychology gives people, not only answers to their day to day problems, but a view of life based on God and eternity. 

One might ask if this isn’t just religion dressed as psychology.  It is more.  It is the same truth found in the Christian religion, but it is made personal, it points to specific, individual needs, and it uses counseling techniques as pschology does.  It also shares truth with psychology, because truth is a unity, and all truth comes from God.  Where psychology can teach relationship dynamics and communication skills, that is truth and is used in Christian psychology.  Where psychology attempts to get into humanistic philosophy, relativistic values or sheer speculation, that would not be part of Christian psychology.

Much more could be said on this topic.  Someone smarter than I am could write a book titled “Why Christian Psychology.”  I have just scratched the surface.  What I have seen, is healing going on in lives where a person begins to follow Jesus.  These healed lives aren’t all that uncommon among Jesus followers, yet they would have been considered a miracle in the mental health world where I worked.

 

Apologetics

December 28, 2011

I talked in the last blog about apologetics meaning not an apology, but a defense of belief.  Theoretically, apologetics could apply to defense of one’s political views, or any other belief system, but generally the term is used to mean defense of one’s religious or philosophical belief.

I said I would like to learn more about apologetics this year.  I have learned enough about various worldviews and religions to solidify my own beliefs.  I feel very comfortable believing Jesus was divine, and the eyewitness accounts of his life are reliable.  I believe what the Christians call the New Testament is true, and written by those who either were eyewitnesses to what they wrote, or were close associates of those who were there.  I believe the Old Testament is true, because I believe Jesus was divine.  Jesus testified to the truth of the Old Testament in that He quoted from nearly every book of it.

That being said, I have learned enough to be convinced myself, but I want to learn how to dialogue with those who are equally convinced their own belief system, or lack of belief is true.  I want to know the arguments of the other side of each debate, not to directly refute them, but to know how to introduce Jesus into their model.  I am utterly convinced Jesus is for everyone, no matter their background.  I am convinced He has the answers to all human problems, and is Himself the answer to the 5 existential questions every worldview must answer:  How did the world come to be?  What happened to cause evil and suffering?  What is mankind’s purpose?  What happens when we die?  and How does the wrong get remedied?  Not every worldview can answer all these questions.

I have come across some marvelous Christian apologists.  Some give themselves this title, and some don’t, because they talk about other things as well.   Probably my favorite apologists are Ravi Zacharias and his group of speakers/writers.  They are so down-to-earth and easy to understand.  You don’t have to be a philosopher or theologian to understand them.  I also like the books of Lee Stroble–especially interesting in that he came from an agnostic background, and initially set out to disprove Christianity, the bible, and even a creator.  He ended up convincing himself to change his own belief system.  Another apologist is Josh McDowell.  He’s been writing quite awhile, and has expanded his offerings to include answers to the most common questions skeptics ask.  A theologian who is deeper and more into doctrine is RC Sproul.  He has some good answers to more specific questions about Christian belief and practice.  A classic apologist, who is still very popular and readable is CS Lewis.  Here again we have a skeptic whose research dissolved his own skepticism.

The work of an apologist, in my opinion, is to give people intellectually satisfying reasons to believe.  In the apologists mind, God doesn’t expect blind faith.  He gives us plenty of evidence to mull over.  On the other hand, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is not evidence beyond ALL doubt.  If there could be no doubt left, there would be no faith.  Sometimes in life, we just have to step out and trust.  If we didn’t do that, we would never marry and never have children. 

Ultimately, there can never be enough evidence to convince a skeptic who has emotional reasons for their unbelief.  Faith has two components:  intellect and will.  If I do not desire to have God in my life, if I simply won’t trust anyone but myself, if I prefer to believe I am the captain of my own ship and make my own destiny, then no amount of evidence will ever be enough.